St. Alb-ns

Mother HAGGY.

Sola, Novum, Dictuq, Nefas, Harpyia Celano
Prodigium canit, & tristes denuntiat Iras.

Printed in the Year 1712.


I can scarcely say whether we ought to attribute the Multitude of Ghosts and Apparitions, which were so common in the Days of our Forefathers, to the Ignorance of the People, or the Impositions of the Priest. The Romish Clergy found it undoubtedly for their Interest to deceive them, and the Superstition of the People laid themselves open to receive whatsoever They thought proper to inculcate. Hence it is, that their Traditions are little else, than the Miracles and Atchievements of unbody'd Heroes, a Sort of spiritual Romance, so artfully carry'd on, and delivered in so probable a Manner, as may easily pass for Truth on those of an uncultivated Capacity, or a credulous Disposition. Our Sectarists indeed still retain the Credulity, as well as some of the Tenets of that Church; and Apparitions, and such like, are still the Bug-bears made use of by some of the most Celebrated of their Holders-forth to terrify the old Women of their Congregation, (who are their surest Customers) and enlarge their Quarterly Subscriptions. I know one of these Ambidexters, who never fails of Ten or Twenty Pounds more than Ordinary, by nicking something Wonderful in due Time; he often cloaths his whole Family by the Apparition of a Person lately executed at Tyburn; or, a Whale seen at Greenwich, or thereabouts; and I am credibly inform'd, that his Wife has made a Visit with a Brand new Sable Tippet on, since the Death of the Tower Lions.

But as these Things will pass upon none but the Ignorant or Superstitious, so there are others that will believe nothing of this Nature, even upon the clearest Evidence. There are, it must be own'd, but very few of these Accounts to be depended on; some however are so palpable, and testify'd by so good Authority, by those of such undoubted Credit, and so discerning a Curiosity, that there is no Room to doubt of their Veracity, and which none but a Sceptic can disbelieve. Such is the following Story of Mother Haggy of St. Alb——ns, in the Reign of King James the First, the mighty Pranks she plaid in her Life-time, and her Apparition afterwards, made such a Noise, both at Home and Abroad, and were so terrible to the Neighbourhood, that the Country People, to this Day, cannot hear the Mention of her Name, without the most dismal Apprehensions. The Injuries they receiv'd from the Sorceries and Incantations of the Mother, and the Injustice and Oppression of the Son and Daughter, have made so deep an Impression upon their Minds, and begot such an Hereditary Aversion to their Memory, that they never speak of them, without the bitterest Curses and Imprecations.

I have made it my Business, being at St. Alb——ns lately, to enquire more particularly into this Matter, and the Helps I have receiv'd from the most noted Men of Erudition in this City, have been Considerable, and to whom I make my publick Acknowledgment. The Charges I have been at in getting Manuscripts, and Labour in collating them, the Reconciling the Disputes about the most material Circumstances, and adjusting the various Readings, as they have took me up a considerable Time, so I hope they may be done to the Satisfaction of my Reader. I wish I could have had Time to have distinguish'd by an Asterism the Circumstances deliver'd by Tradition only, from those of the Manuscripts, which I was advis'd to do by my worthy Friend the Reverend Mr. Wh——n, who, had he not been Employ'd otherways, might have been a very proper Person to have undertaken such a Performance.

The best Manuscripts are now in the Hands of the Ingenious Dr. G——th, where they are left for the Curious to peruse, and where any Clergyman may be welcome; for however he may have been abus'd by those who deny him to be the Author of the D——y, and tax'd by others with Principles and Practices unbecoming a Man of his Sense and Probity, yet I will be bold to say in his Defence, that I believe he is as good a Christian, as he is a Poet, and if he publishes any Thing on the late D——d M——y, I don't question but it will be interspers'd with as many Precepts of Reveal'd Religion, as the Subject is capable of bearing: And it is very probable, those Refin'd Pieces that the Doctor has been pleas'd to own, since the Writing of the D——y, have been look'd upon, by the lewd debauch'd Criticks of the Town, to be dull and insipid, for no other Reason, but because they are grave and sober; but this I leave for others to determine, and can say for his Sincerity, that I am assur'd he believes the following Relation as much as any of us all.

Mother Haggy was marry'd to a plain home-spun Yeoman of St. Alb——ns, and liv'd in good Repute for some Years: The Place of her Birth is disputed by some of the most celebrated Moderns, tho' they have a Tradition in the Country, that she was never Born at all, and which is most probable. At the Birth of her Daughter Haggite, something happen'd very remarkable, and which gave Occasion to the Neighbourhood to mistrust she had a Correspondence with Old Nick, as was confirm'd afterwards, beyond the Possibility of Disproof. The Neighbours were got together a Merry-making, as they term it, in the Country, when the old Woman's High-crown'd Hat, that had been thrown upon the Bed's Tester during the Heat of the Engagement, leap'd with a wonderful Agility into the Cradle, and being catch'd at by the Nurse, was metamorphos'd into a Coronet, which according to her Description, was not much unlike that of a German Prince; but it soon broke into a thousand Pieces. Such, cries old Mother Haggy, will be the Fortune of my Daughter, and such her Fall. The Company took but little Notice what she said, being surpris'd at the Circumstance of the Hat. But this is Fact, says the Reverend and Honourable L——y L——d, and my Grandmother, who was a Person of Condition, told me, says He, she knew the Man, who knew the Woman, who was, said she, in the Room at that Instant. The very same Night, I saw a Comet, neither have I any Occasion to tell a Lye as to this Particular, says my Author, brandishing its Tail in a very surprising Manner in the Air, but upon the Breaking of a Cloud, I could discern, continues he, a Clergyman at the Head of a Body of his own Cloth, and follow'd by an innumerable Train of Laity, who coming towards the Comet, it disappear'd.

This was the first Time Mother Haggy became suspected, and it was the Opinion of the Wisest of the Parish, that they should Petition the King to send her to be try'd for a Witch by the Presbytery of Scotland. How this past off I cannot tell, but certain it is, that some of the Great Ones of the Town were in with her, and 'tis said she was Serviceable to them in their Amours: She had a Wash that would make the Skin of a Blackamore as white as Alabaster, and another, that would restore the Loss of a Maidenhead, without any Hindrance of Business, or the Knowledge of any one about them. She try'd this Experiment so often upon her Daughter Haggite, that more than Twenty were satisfy'd they had her Virginity before Marriage.

She soon got such a Reputation all about the Country, that there was not a Cow, a Smock, or a silver Spoon lost, but they came to her to enquire after it; All the young People flock'd to have their Fortunes told, which, they say she never miss'd. She told Haggite's Husband, he should grow Rich, and be a Great Man, but by his Covetousness and Griping of the Poor, should come to an ill End. All which happen'd so exactly, That there are several old Folks in our Town, who can remember it, as if it was but Yesterday.

She has been often seen to ride full gallop upon a Broom-Stick at Noon-Day, and swim over a River in a Kettle-Drum. Sometimes she wou'd appear in the Shape of a Lioness, and at other times of a Hen, or a Cat; but I have heard, could not turn herself into a Male Creature, or walk over two Straws across. There were never known so many great Winds as about that Time, or so much Mischief done by them: The Pigs gruntled, and the Screech-Owls hooted oftner than usual; a Horse was found dead one Morning with Hay in his Mouth; and a large overgrown Jack was caught in a Fish-Pond thereabouts with a silver Tobacco-Box in his Belly; several Women were brought to Bed of two Children, Some miscarry'd, and old Folks died very frequently.

These Things could not chuse but breed a great Combustion in the Town, as they call it, and every Body certainly had rejoyc'd at her Death, had she not been succeeded by a Son and Daughter, who, tho' they were no Conjurers, were altogether as terrible to the Neighbourhood. She had two Daughters, one of which was marry'd to a Man who went beyond Sea; the other, her Daughter Haggite, to Avaro, whom we shall have Occasion to mention in the Sequel of this Story.

There liv'd at that Time in the Neighbourhood two Brothers, of a great Family, Persons of a vast Estate and Character, and extreamly kind to their Servants and Dependants. Haggite by her Mother's Interest, was got into this Family, and Avaro, who was afterwards her Husband, was the Huntsman's Boy. He was a Lad of a fine Complexion, good Features, and agreeable to the fair Sex, but wanted the Capacity of some of his fellow Servants: Tho' he got a Reputation afterwards for a Man of Courage, but upon no other Grounds, than by setting the Country Fellows to Cudgelling or Boxing, and being a Spectator of a broken Head and a bloody Nose.

There are several authentic Accounts of the Behaviour of these Two, in their respective Stations, and by what Means they made an Advancement of their Fortunes. There are several Relations, I say, now extant, that tell us, how one of these great Brothers took Avaro's Sister for his Mistress, which was the Foundation of his Preferment, and how Haggite, by granting her Favours to any one who would go to the Expence of them, became extreamly Wealthy, and how Both had gain'd the Art of getting Money out of every Body they had to do with, and by the most dishonourable Methods. Never perhaps, was any Couple so match'd in every Thing as these, or so fit for one another: A Couple so link'd by the Bonds of Iniquity, as well as Marriage, that it is impossible to tell which had the greatest Crimes to answer for.

It will be needless to relate the Fortune of the Brothers, who were their Successive Masters, and the Favours they bestow'd on them. It is sufficient that the Estate came at last to a Daughter of the younger Brother, a Lady, who was the Admiration of the Age she liv'd in, and the Darling of the whole Country, and who had been attended from her Infancy by Haggite.

Then it was Avaro began his Tyranny; he was entrusted with all the Affairs of Consequence, and there was nothing done without his Knowledge. He marry'd his Daughters to some of the most considerable Estates in the Neighbourhood, and was related by Marriage to one Baconface, a sort of Bailiff to his Lady. He, and Baconface and Haggite got into Possession, as it were, of their Lady's Estate, and carry'd it with so high a Hand, were so haughty to the Rich, and oppressive to the Poor, that they quickly began to make themselves odious; but for their better Security, they form'd a sort of Confederacy with one Dammyblood, Clumzy their Son-in-Law, Splitcause an Attorney, and Mouse a noted Ballad-Maker, and some others. As soon as they had done this, they began so to domineer, that there was no Living for those who would not compliment, or comply with them in their Villany. Haggite cry'd, Lord, Madam, to her Mistress, It must be so; Avaro swore, By G——d, and Baconface shook his Head, and look'd dismally. They made every Tenant pay a Tax, and every Servant considerably out of his Wages toward the Mounding their Lady's Estate, as they pretended, but most part of it went into their own Pockets. Once upon a Time, the Tenants grumbling at their Proceedings, Clumzy, the Son-in-Law, brought in a Parcel of Beggars to settle upon the Estate. Thus they liv'd for some Years, till they grew Richer than their Mistress, and were, perhaps, the Richest Servants in the World: Nay, what is the most Remarkable, and will scarcely find Belief in future Ages, they began at last to deny her Title to the Estate, and affirm, she held it only by their Permission and Connivance.

Things were come to this pass, when one of the Tenants Sons from Oxf——rd preach'd up Obedience to their Lady, and the Necessity of their Downfall, who oppos'd it. This open'd the Eyes of all the honest Tenants, but enrag'd Avaro and his Party, to that Degree, that they had hir'd a Pack of Manag'd Bull-Dogs, with a Design to bait him, and had done it infallibly, had not the Gentry interpos'd, and the Country People run into his Assistance. These, with much ado, muzled the Dogs, and petition'd their Lady to discard the Mismanagers, who consented to it.

Great were the Endeavours, and great the Struggles of the Faction, for so they were call'd, to keep themselves in Power, as the Histories of those Times mention. They stirr'd up all their Ladies Acquaintance to speak to her in their behalf, wrote Letters to and fro, swore and curs'd, laugh'd and cry'd, told the most abominable and inconsistent Lyes, but all to no Purpose: They spent their Money, lavish'd away their Beef, Pudding, and October, most unmercifully, and made several Jointed-Babies to shew for Sights, and please the Tenants Sons about Christmas.

Old Drybones was then the Parson of the Parish, a Man of the most notorious Character, who would change his Principles at any Time to serve a Turn, preach or pray Extempore, talk Nonsense, or any Thing else, for the Advancement of Avaro and his Faction. He was look'd upon to be the greatest Artist in Legerdemain in that Country; and had a Way of shewing the Pope and little Master in a Box, but the Figures were so very small, it was impossible for any Body but himself to discern them. He was hir'd, as is suppos'd, to tax the New Servants with Popery, together with their Mistress, which he preach'd in several Churches thereabouts; but his Character was too well known to make any Thing credited that came from him.

There are several Particulars related, both by Tradition and the Manuscripts, concerning the turning out of these Servants, which would require greater Volumes than I design. It is enough, that notwithstanding their Endeavours, they were Discarded, and the Lady chose her new Servants out of the most honest and substantial of her Tenants, of undoubted Abilities, who were tied to her by Inclination as well as Duty. These began a Reformation of all the Abuses committed by Avaro and Baconface, which discover'd such a Scene of Roguery to the World, that one would hardly think the most mercenary Favourites could be guilty of.

Avaro now began to be very uneasie, and to be affrighted at his own Conscience; he found nothing would pacifie the enrag'd Tenants, and that his Life wou'd be but a sufficient Recompence for his Crimes. His Money which he rely'd on, and which he lavish'd away to Bribe off his Destruction, had not Force enough to Protect him: He could not, as it is reported, Sit still in one Place for two Minutes, never Slept at all, Eat little or nothing, Talk'd very rambling and inconsistent, of Merit, Hardships, Accounts, Perquisites, Commissioners, Bread and Bread-Waggons, but was never heard to mention any Cheese.

He came and made a Confession in his own House to some People he never saw before in his Life, and which shews no little Disorder in his Brain; That, whatever they might think of him, he was as Dutiful a Servant as any his Mistress had. Haggite rav'd almost as bad as he, and had got St. Anthony's Fire in her Face; but it is a question, says Dr. G—th, whether there was any Thing Ominous in that, since it is probable, the Distemper only chang'd it's Situation.

Mean while, it was agreed by Baconface and others, that a Consultation should be call'd at Avaro's House, something Decisive resolv'd on, in order to prevent their Ruin; and accordingly Jacobo the Messenger was sent to inform the Cabal of it.

Dismal and horrid was the Night of that infernal Consultation, nothing heard but the melancholly Murmuring of Winds, and the Croaking of Toads and Ravens; Every thing seem'd Wild and Desert, and double Darkness overspread the Hemisphere: Thunder and Lightning, Storms and Tempest, and Earthquakes, seem'd to Presage something more then Ordinary, and added to the Confusion of that Memorable Night. Nature sicken'd, and groan'd, as it were, under the Tortures of universal Ruine. Not a Servant in the House but had Dreamt the strangest Dreams, and Haggite her self had seen a Stranger in the Candle. The Fire languish'd and burnt Blue, and the Crickets sung continually about the Oven: How far the Story is true concerning the Warming-Pan and Dishes, I cannot say, but certain it is, a Noise was heard like that of rolling Pease from the top of the House to the bottom; and the Windows creak'd, and the Doors rattled in a manner not a little terrible. Several of their Servants made Affidavit, That Haggite lost a red Petticoat, a Ruff, and a Pair of Green-Stockings, that were her Mother's, but the Night before, and a Diamond-Cross once gave her by a Great Man.

'Twas about Midnight before this Black Society got together, and no sooner were they seated, when Avaro open'd to them in this manner. We have try'd, says he, my Friends, all the Artifices we cou'd invent or execute, but all in vain. Our Mistress has discover'd plainly our Intentions, and the Tenants will be neither flatter'd, nor frighted, nor brib'd into our Interest. It remains therefore, and what tho' we Perish in the Attempt, we must Perish otherwise, that once for all we make a Push at the very Life of——When, Lo! says the Manuscript, An unusual Noise interrupted his Discourse, and Jacobo cry'd out, The Devil, the Devil at the Door. Scarce had he Time to speak, or they to listen, when the Apparition of Mother Haggy entred; But, Who can describe the Astonishment they were then in? Haggite sounded away in the Elbow-Chair as she sat, and Avaro, notwithstanding his boasted Courage, slunk under the Table in an Instant: Baconface screw'd himself into a thousand Postures; and Clumzy trembled till his very Water trickled from him. Splitcause tumbled over a Joint-Stool, and Mouse the Ballad-Maker broke a Brandy-Bottle that had been Haggite's Companion for some Years: But Dammyblood, Dammyblood only was the Man that had the Courage to cry out G-d D-m your Bl—d, What occasion for all this Bustle? Is it not the Devil, and is he not our old Acquaintance? This reviv'd them in some Measure; but the Ghastlyness of the Spectacle made still some Impression on them. There was an unaccountable Irregularity in her Dress, a Wanness in her Complexion, and a Disproportion in her Features. Flames of Fire issued from her Nostrils, and a sulphurous Smoak from her Mouth, which together with the Condition some of the Company were in, made a very noisome and offensive Smell; and I have been told, says a very Grave Alderman of St. Albans, Some of them saw her Cloven Foot.

I Come, says she, at length, (in an hollow Voice, more terrible than the celebrated Stentor, or the brawny Caledonian) I Come, O ye Accomplices in Iniquity, to tell you of your Crimes, to bid you desist from these Cabals, for they are Fruitless, and prepare for Punishment that is Certain. I have, as long as I could, assisted you in your Glorious Execrable Attempts, but Time is now no more; the Time is coming when you must be deliver'd up to Justice. As to you, O Son and Daughter, said she, turning to them, 'tis but a few revolving Moons, e'er you must both fall a Sacrifice to your Avarice and Ambition, as I have told you heretofore, but your Mistress will be too Merciful, and tho' your ready Money must be refunded, your Estate in Land will Descend onto your Heirs. But you, O Baconface, you have Merited nothing to save either your Life or your Estate, be contented therefore with the Loss of both: And Clumzy, says she, you must have the same Fate, your Insolence to your Lady, and the Beggars you brought in upon the Tenants will require it. Dammyblood, continues she, turning towards him, you must expect a considerable Fine; but Splitcause and Mouse may come off more easily. She said, gave a Shriek; and disappear'd; and the Cabal dispers'd with the utmost Consternation.